cover image Picabia


Rizzoli, Satur Borras, Jr., Maria Lluisa Borras. Rizzoli International Publications, $75 (549pp) ISBN 978-0-8478-0603-4

A founder of the Dada movement, Francis Picabia was a maverick, an out-and-out individualist who mocked even his fellow-travelers. He participated in Surrealism but was reviled by the Surrealists. His entries in the New York Armory Show of 1913 made him a leader of the avant-garde, but even after that exhibit Americans couldn't understand his religious fantasies laced with savage humor. Picabia is less well known in the U.S. than in Europe; he is often considered more of a catalyst than a genius in his own right. This massive, definitive biography (originally published in Spain) should add luster to Picabia's reputation. His Dada pictures, which lyrically link machines, words and images, now seem precursors of conceptual art. Like Picasso, he was a chameleonturning out imitations of Monet and Pissarro, then Fauve nudes, geometric abstractions, Cubist burlesques. The 226 color plates and 927 halftones display Picabia's astonishingly fertile imagination and wit. The later works include a considerable amount of kitsch, with more misses than hits. Borras sets this prolific output in the context of the artist's circle and personal life, which she documents with some 100 photographs. December